People get married mostly because they want to be together and raise a family. Sometimes, they put their names on wedding certificates so they can get some benefits when moving to another country.
Also, there are marriages that are the result of some previous talks, so the spouses can get the immigration benefits together, and later divorce. There are so many aspects of this thing, we can talk about it a whole day.
Anyway, the ways divorce can affect the immigration status in the US are quite a few. It doesn’t necessarily affect both spouses, and it all depends if the couple is completely foreign, or if some of them are married to a US citizen. So, we need to get these things right, before we proceed with the ways divorce affects us.
Immigrants can apply as a married couple or a family of a few members. The procedure can start for all of them at once, or it can go in stages. Another way is when an immigrant marries a US citizen, which doesn’t mean they get the status immediately because there are still some things in between.
Also, two foreigners with different immigration statuses can get married in the US, but that still doesn’t grant them citizenship.
What’s the difference?
If an immigrant is married to a US citizen, they need to wait for three years to get their green card. If a divorce happens in the meantime, the waiting period to become a naturalized US citizen extends to the usual five years. If you divorce after you get the citizenship, you don’t need to worry about getting your immigrant status back.
So, we can say that there are a few ways that may affect your immigration status, but that depends on how long are you married to a US permanent resident.
1. When you have a marriage visa
For those who have a visa thanks to their spouse, divorce means their immigration status is highly affected, and they may not be able to stay in the United States. This happens when your immigration status depends on the spouse. After the divorce (earlier than three years), you may lose the eligibility to get the wanted green card.
That means you are a conditional resident, and if you don’t get a permanent residency, you may get deported to your home country.
Surely, there are some easing conditions, like if the spouse treated you badly, was abusive, or you can’t return to the homeland due to safety reasons. Also, if you have children together, you may still stay in the USA, but that also depends on the state laws (since every state has different laws, based on the federal ones). You can click here to learn more about this.
2. Divorced before you get the green card
If you divorce the spouse before receiving the green card, you can still have some time to obtain it. In many cases, sadly, you will lose your status, but if you can prove that you were mistreated in that marriage, the immigration office can extend the period and still manage to get you a green card.
3. Divorced while temporary resident
If you divorce in the first two years, that can have negative effects on your immigration rights. That means, you can lose the conditional (or temporary) residence as a result, which may end up you being deported to your homeland.
4. Divorce while waiting for the green card
If you’ve applied for a permanent residence green card but happen to divorce before you receive it, it will still affect the approval of the application. That way, the immigration process stops, because the immigrant spouse is not eligible to get the green card.
5. Divorce after the approval
In many cases, it won’t affect the permanent residency status. Most of the time, the state will ask you to fill the Form I-751 to prove you are not forced to get into that marriage. But, this divorce can affect the naturalization process.
6. Divorce before and during a naturalization
Even though it won’t affect badly the naturalization, there are some circumstances you need to be aware of. Naturalization starts after three years of marriage and filing the N-400 application. If you divorce after five years, that won’t affect the naturalization process.
Keep in mind that when you file N-400, you are again a subject of review, and to the immigrant office, your divorce may look like a green card fraud. So, be aware of every potential outcome knowing all these things.
If the immigration office has proof you are doing something considered a fraud (according to their rules), you may get deported to the homeland, even though you’ve been married for years, you have a green card, and the naturalization process is happening right now.
7. What happens if the spouse dies
In the case of the death of the US citizen spouse, that can still affect the citizenship status. You can still issue a petition for yourself, the I-360 form as a Widow(er) of a US citizen. But, keep in mind that this can happen only if your spouse was a US-born citizen. If they were permanent residents, you are not qualified to self-petition.
The USA has very strict immigration laws. Check all your options in order to enter into any “adventure” that could damage your reputation and bring you a permanent ban on entering there. Marriages of interest are not something new in immigration processes.
The laws in the US are made with that in mind and of course, you cannot be wiser than the authorities, because you are constantly under scrutiny.
However, this should not scare you. Such marriages are often made out of love, so it is not at all a problem to stay in that marriage as long as it is really necessary. You should also be familiar with both federal and state policies. This way you will always be up to date with what you need to do and monitor your immigration status.